Dr. Larry’s “Letting Go of the Little Things”

This week we have a great post by Dr. Larry that discusses how to let go of the little things in order to rid our lives of needless aggravation.

Letting Go of the Little Things

 Dr. Larry Markson

When we stop worrying about unimportant matters, we can devote so much more of ourselves to what is truly important.

We experience numerous disappointments each and every day. Our expectations go unmet, our plans are blocked by circumstance, our wishes go unfulfilled, and we discover that our lives are subject to a myriad of forces beyond our conscious control. In some cases, our response is powerful because we must invest ourselves and our resources to overcome genuine hardship.

In others, our reactions are far more passionate than our circumstances likely warrant. The tension that permeates our bodies and minds when we are late for an event, interrupted at work, or sitting in traffic is not inappropriate, but it can interfere with our well-being in profound ways. When we stop worrying about relatively unimportant matters, we can be at peace and devote so much more of ourselves to what is truly important.

The small frustrations and irritations wield such power over us because they rob us of the illusion of control. But every problem is a potential teacher—a confusing situation is an opportunity to practice mindfulness, and difficult people provide us with opportunities to display compassion. There is a natural human tendency to invest copious amounts of emotional energy in minor dilemmas and frustrations in order to avoid confronting those more complex issues that are largely outside the realm of our control.

The intensity of our response provides us with a temporary sense of personal power that helps us cope with challenges that might otherwise overwhelm us. But it is only when we let the little stuff go that we discover that the big stuff is not really so devastating after all.

In the stress of a singularly tense incident, differentiating between an inconsequential annoyance and a legitimate challenge can seem a monumental task. Ask yourself whether the emotions you are feeling will be as vivid in a year, a day, or even an hour. As focused as you are on this moment in time, your reward for letting go of your emotional investment may be the very happiness and harmony of being whose loss you are lamenting.

Needless aggravation is seldom worth the cost it exacts. You cannot distance yourself from life’s inconsistencies, irritations, and upheavals, but you can relinquish your desire for perfect order and gain peace of mind in the process.

Dr. Michael J. Breus’ “How to Worry Less and Sleep More”

Do you have trouble getting to sleep at night?  How about staying asleep?  Here’s a great post from Dr Michael J. Breus that explains some of the issues that might keep you from sleep and some great ideas on how to help you sleep better.

How to Worry Less and Sleep More

by Michael J. Breus, PhD

woman on bed with her husband

Does worry keep you from falling asleep at night? Do you lie awake replaying the stressful parts of your day, fretting about money, stressing about your job, wondering how your kids are doing in school? If worry keeps you up at night, you’re far from alone. Worrying at bedtime – and losing sleep to stress and anxiety – is one of the most common sleep complaints. There’s probably no sleep issue I hear about more often from my patients.

Tossing and turning with worries when we want to be sleeping is a frustrating experience. Sleep loss from worry is also hazardous to health. Studies show that people who lose sleep as a result of worry are at an elevated risk for cardiovascular problems. Nighttime worriers who experience disturbed sleep are also more likely to have problems with alcohol. Disrupted sleep, and stress itself, both wreak havoc with the body’s immune system.

A recent study investigated the role that worry plays in sleep loss over the course of adulthood, from early middle age to old age, creating what researchers say is the first picture of how worry affects sleep during the bulk of adulthood. The researchers also created a long-term trajectory for insomnia during these same adult years, in order to compare the two. Their goal was to gain a sense of the evolution of worry as a factor in sleep loss over a significant portion of adulthood.

  • Sleep loss from worry was at its highest during the ages 35-55. During the period of 55-60, worry began to decline as a factor in sleep loss, and leveled off with the onset of old age during the years 66-70.
  • Women were more likely than men to suffer sleep loss from worry. For women, worry increased during early middle age (ages 34-45) before reaching its peak levels during the period of 51-60. In their 60s, women in both study groups saw their sleep loss from worry begin to decrease – this decrease started later in life for women than for the men in the study, many of whom began to see an ebb of sleep lost to worry in their mid-to-late fifties.

The trajectory for insomnia over the same period of adult life looked markedly different. Insomnia became more common as people went from late-middle age to old age. Women were again more likely to experience insomnia than men. Here’s a particularly interesting finding: Frequent insomnia (5 or more nights a week) was found to become more likely with age. When researchers analyzed data for less severe insomnia (2 or fewer nights a week), they found this type of insomnia did not become more prevalent with age.

It’s not clear why worry decreases with age as a factor in sleep loss, but researchers speculate that the drop may have to do, in part, with life changes that often accompany the shift from middle age to old age. Many of the pressures of middle age can change and diminish in ensuing years, as people retire from jobs, see their children grown and become independent, and as they themselves achieve a sense of financial stability.

How can these results help with improving treatment of disrupted sleep? For medical professionals, it’s important to address the issue of stress and worry as a barrier to sleep among working-age adults.

The years of middle age are when many people are most vulnerable to the some of the major stresses of life – financial ups and downs, the death of parents, ongoing worry related to work and to parenting. We need to pay particular attention to women, because their risk for sleep loss from worry appears to be higher than men’s.

Dealing more constructively with worry-related sleep loss isn’t just a job for the professionals. We all can take basic steps to reduce our nighttime worrying and improve our sleep. Don’t wait for your doctor to bring up the subject. If you’re having trouble sleeping and worry or anxiety seem to be involved, make sure you bring up the subject with your doctor. There are a number of lifestyle changes that can help, including regular exercise, meditation and relaxation, and managing your alcohol consumption.

Here’s another strategy I recommend to patients frequently: Start keeping a worry journal. A worry journal is just what it sounds like: A place to write down all the things that are preoccupying your mind and causing you anxiety or stress. The practice of keeping a worry journal allows you to take your worries from your mind to the written page, helping you to relax.

To start a Worry Journal:

  • Select a notebook or notepad
  • On a blank page, draw a line down the center, creating 2 columns. Do this on three pages.
  • At the top of the first page, write: I need to remember to take care of…
  • At the top of the second page, write: I can’t forget to…
  • At the top of the third page, write: I am so worried about…
  • In the left column of each page, finish the sentence at the top, writing down everything that occurs to you.
  • In the right column, address the concern, worry, or task, by scheduling a time to think about it or deal with it.

Don’t judge your worries, and try not to censor yourself. This is a private exercise where you can be honest about what’s on your mind. Anything that’s worrying you – no matter how seemingly significant or not – belongs on these pages.

Stick with this daily habit, and you’re likely to find yourself better able to set your worries aside in order to fall asleep.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD

The Sleep Doctor™

Dr. Larry’s “Simplify Your Schedule”

Greetings!  This week we have a great post by Dr. Larry Markson that discusses the importance of avoiding burnout.  He stresses the significance of establishing priorities in order to help declutter your schedule and return your life to a semblance of balance.

Simplify Your Schedule

by Dr. Larry Markson

Simplifying your schedule and busyness of the day may be crucial to avoid burnout.

For many, life is a hodgepodge of never-ending commitments. Yet, few of us can be truly healthy or happy without regular periods of downtime. While there is nothing inherently wrong with busyness, those of us who over-commit or over-extend ourselves potentially face exhaustion and burnout.

When you feel overwhelmed by your commitments, examining your motivation for taking on so many obligations can help you understand why you feel compelled to do so much. You may discover that you are being driven by fear that no one else will do the job or guilt that you aren’t doing enough.

To regain your equilibrium and clear the clutter from your calendar, simplify your life by establishing limits regarding what you will and will not do based on your personal priorities.

Determining where your priorities lie can be as easy as making two lists: one that outlines all those obligations that are vital to your wellbeing, such as work, meditation, and exercise, and another that describes everything you do that is not directly related to your wellbeing.

Although there will likely be items in the latter list that excite your passion or bring you joy, you may discover that you devote a large portion of your time to unnecessary activities. To simplify your schedule, consider which of these unnecessary activities add little value to your life and edit them from your agenda.

Remember that you may need to ask for help, say no firmly, or delegate responsibility in order to distance yourself from such encumbrances. However, as you divest yourself of non-vital obligations that cause you stress, serve no purpose, or rob you of opportunities to refresh yourself, you will feel more energetic and enthusiastic about life in general.

If simplifying your schedule seems prohibitively difficult and you still feel pressed to take on more, try imagining how each new commitment will impact your life before saying yes.

When you consider the hassle associated with superfluous obligations, you may be surprised to see that your schedule is impeding your attempts to grow as an individual. Your willingness to pare down your agenda, no matter how gradual your progress, will empower you to retake active control of the life that defines you.